No Man Will Make a Great Business Who Wants To Do It All Himself, Or To Get All the Credit of Doing It

Andrew Carnegie? Barnard Alderson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Business titan and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie stated that one person cannot build a great enterprise alone. Also, one person should never demand all the credit. Would you please help me to find the precise quotation and a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1899 the “St. Louis Globe-Democrat” of Missouri published an interview with Andrew Carnegie who mentioned that he had many partners in his industrial endeavors. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I do not believe any one man can make a great success of a business nowadays. I am sure I never could have done so without my partners, of whom I had thirty-two, the brightest and cleverest young fellows in the world. ”

Carnegie asserted that only small-minded individuals attempted to take all the credit for a successful business: 2

“No man will make a great business who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit of doing it. That spirit is fatal, and the sure proof of a small mind.”

Carnegie’s remarks were published in “The Philadelphia Times” of Pennsylvania on the same day, 3 and two weeks later his guidance appeared in “The St. Paul Globe” of Minnesota. 4

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1902 the biography “Andrew Carnegie: The Man and His Work” by Barnard Alderson included an edited version of the interview containing the key quotation. The word “of” was changed to “for”: 5

“No man will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or to get all the credit for doing it. I believe firmly in youths as executive agents. Older heads should be reserved for counsel.”

In 1946 “Management Can Be Human” by Harvey Stowers included the quotation followed by an elaboration from Stowers: 6

“No man,” said Andrew Carnegie, “will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or to get all the credit for doing it.” We must be generous in giving credit and full recognition to the worker who has earned it.

In 1975 an article in the “Deseret News” of Salt Lake City, Utah printed a modified version of the quotation using the word “leader” instead of “business”: 7

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it,” commented Andrew Carnegie. You can feel the satisfaction of serving and sharing the credit with others when you call the Voluntary Action Center of the Community Services Council.

In 1992 the motivation book “Building a POSitive Attitude” by Rich Wilkins included a version using “person” instead of “man”: 8

No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
Andrew Carnegie

In 1997 “The Speaker’s Quote Book” edited by Roy B. Zuck contained the following entry using the word “leader”: 9

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.
—Andrew Carnegie

In 2012 a newspaper in Longview, Texas printed a slightly different phrasing of the statement omitting the word “to” from the phrase “to get”: 10

A good leader will never forget to put people first; after all, true success is a team effort. Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist, recognized this when he said, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.”

In conclusion, Andrew Carnegie deserves credit for the statements he made in 1899. Over the years some altered versions of the Carnegie’s remarks have entered circulation.

Image Notes: Public domain picture of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from the 1902 book “Andrew Carnegie: The Man and His Work” by Barnard Alderson.

(Great thanks to Shantha Mohan whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Mohan had located an instance matching the version in the 1992 citation and wished to find the original statement.)

Notes:

  1. 1899 October 15, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Carnegie On How To Get Rich (Special Correspondence of The Globe-Democrat), Section 3, Quote Page 4, Column 4, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com) link
  2. 1899 October 15, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Carnegie On How To Get Rich (Special Correspondence of The Globe-Democrat), Section 3, Quote Page 4, Column 4, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com) link
  3. 1899 October 15, The Philadelphia Times, Section: The Sunday Times Forum, The Essentials of Success by Andrew Carnegie, Quote Page 27, Column 3, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1899 October 29, The St. Paul Globe, He Made Millions: Andrew Carnegie Tells How Young Men Can Get Rich, Quote Page 22, Column 2, Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1902, Andrew Carnegie: The Man and His Work by Barnard Alderson, Chapter 4: The Steel Master, Quote Page 57 and 58, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  6. 1946, Management Can Be Human by Harvey Stowers, Chapter 9: Give Them the D.S.C., Quote Page 71, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York. (Verified with scans; Internet Archive at archive.org)
  7. 1975 November 15, Deseret News, Section: Weekend, Helping hand, Quote Page W3, Column 6, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1992, Building a POSitive Attitude by Rich Wilkins, Second Ediiton, Chapter 6: Positive Motivational Sayings, Quote Page 96, POSitive Publications, Shepherdsville, Kentucky. (Verified with scans)
  9. 1997, The Speaker’s Quote Book: Over 4,500 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions, Edited by Roy B. Zuck, Topic: Leadership, Quote Page 225, Column 2, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Verified with scans)
  10. 2012 April 27, Longview News-Journal, Leadership Is Doing the Right Thing by Gwyn Weatherford, Quote Page 10, Column 2 and 3, Longview, Texas. (Newspapers_com)